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DDR4 Is Just As Expensive As We Feared It Would Be

Posted on August 11, 2014 10:00 AM by Rob Williams
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When Intel’s X99 enthusiast platform hits the market next month, it’s not only going to bring with it the company’s first 8-core desktop processor; it’s also going to kick-off the DDR4 generation for us non-enterprise folk. DDR4’s most-touted feature is that it can match and exceed DDR3 frequencies while drawing less power – expect 1.2V for most launch modules. Other benefits include increased bandwidth, and of course, a higher digit.

As the title of this post suggests, there’s a downside, too: Early adopters are going to find their financial futures looking a little DIMM. Sure – that’s a poor joke, but it’s not like I tried to RAM it down your throat.

With the launch of DDR4 so close, we knew it’d be just a matter of time before some etailer on these shores began listing it. Well, as I explored Newegg’s memory section this past weekend for unrelated reasons, I spotted a new DDR4 option in the filter box. At the moment, the absolutely only brand to have its DDR4 listed is Crucial, and all of it is for pre-order, with shipments queued for the 29th of this month.

Crucial DDR4 16GB Kit

To see what kind of premium DDR4 modules will demand, I plucked four high-density kits from the list. I likewise looked for DDR3 kits that shared both the same frequencies and densities, and grabbed the lowest-priced one for comparison’s sake (other kits at the bottom of this price run cost about $5~$10 more).

DDR3 DDR4 Premium
2133MHz 2x8GB $155 (Mushkin, 1.58V, CL 10) $260 (Crucial, 1.2V, CL 16) +68%
2133MHz 4x8GB $315 (G.SKILL, 1.65V, CL 10) $520 (Crucial, 1.2V, CL 16) +65%
2400MHz 2x8GB $155 (Team Xtreme, 1.65V, CL 10) $260 (Crucial, 1.2V, CL 16) +67%
2400MHz 4x8GB $325 (G.SKILL, 1.65V, CL 11) $520 (Crucial, 1.2V, CL 16) +60%
CL = CAS Latency. All DDR3 kits were the least-expensive on Newegg as of the time of this post.

Being a dominant leader in the DRAM market, Crucial’s prices tend to be some of the most attractive out there, so I think it’s safe to assume that most DDR4 we see hit the market over the next month will be a bit more expensive than this. Using Crucial as a baseline, expect a premium of at least 60% over DDR3.

Let’s also not gloss over the fact that for some reason, the DDR4-2133 and DDR4-2400 Crucial kits cost the exact same. Even the kits that forgo a heatspreader have the exact same cost as those that do! Weird.

Based on frequency alone, it looks like consumers will have to shell out at least 60% more for a kit that just happens to have a different pin layout. That’s a bit harsh, so I’m hoping that the architectural improvements results in higher bandwidth from equal-spec’d parts.

Crucial DDR4 Ballistix

What stands out even more than that is the fact that these DDR4 modules sport a CAS latency of 16. When DDR3 came out, there wasn’t a huge timing hit compared to DDR2. As we moved to higher frequencies, our memory’s timings likewise increased, but that’s to be expected. For comparison’s sake, a G.SKILL kit of 4x8GB spec’d at DDR3-2800 has a CAS latency of 12. All I can assume at this point is that for DDR4, these higher timings won’t mean too much in the end. On paper though, the increase looks horrible.

Our first DDR4 kit is en route, and should land in our lab this week. However, I don’t think we’ll be able to share information on performance until Intel officially pulls the veil off of its X99 platform because DDR4 will be running through Haswell-E’s on-chip controller. If there’s one thing Intel doesn’t like to see before a launch, it’s performance results from the press. If there’s one thing I don’t like seeing before a launch, it’s an epic meal with no leftovers. Gut-wrenching.


  • Kayden

    Holy price gouging for early adopters Rob-man!

    • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

      There’s that, and also the fact that there are still DDR3 models -on sale- that have higher frequencies than these do. I’m sure we’ll see DDR4-3000 at launch, but there’s been some DDR3 kits on sale at some points faster than that (mostly from G.SKILL, the company loves selling limited runs of stupidly fast RAM).

    • dfhdghdhdhgfh

      @Kayden3:disqus
      which is one reason my PC is still using DDR ram from 2005 i tend to upgrade a few components later and ill be set for the next decade at least and thats also why i prefer desktops they are much more upgradable

  • Howard Treesong

    If you want to run with the big dogs, you have to be prepared to eat the big meal. I can’t wait to have these puppies in my computer. It’s not what you’d call dirt cheap, but it’s the state of the art. If you want to be on the bleeding edge, understand that it’s you who’s going to do the bleeding ;-).

    All pumped up here!

    • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

      “If you want to be on the bleeding edge, understand that it’s you who’s going to do the bleeding ;-).”

      That’s a great quote!

      I think the price premium would be easier to accept if the frequencies were a lot higher than DDR3. If DDR4 performs just the same as DDR3 clock-for-clock, then it’ll be a little disappointing, especially given that DDR4’s timings are far looser (a friend of mine just received a DDR4-2666 kit with a staggering CAS latency of 19!). As said in the post though, hopefully those loose timings mean little in the end. It’s just a hard spec to ignore.

      Are you planning to go with the 8-core CPU?

      • Jeff O

        Honest question – Have you looked into quad-channel performance yet? It isn’t mentioned in this article, and the tech-enthusiest intel i7’s will run this.

        • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

          I am getting the impression that a lot of people think a quad-channel memory controller is new, when in fact the design has existed since late 2011, when Intel launched its X79 platform. At that time, I did do some comparative testing:

          http://techgage.com/article/intel_core_i7-3960x_extreme_edition_review/12/

          (The top two results are all that’s needed; this is not apples-to-apples since dissimilar spec’d kits were used, but it still gets the point across.)

          When I post my full look at Haswell-E, it’ll be a match-up between X79/4960X and X99/5960X. I’ll do my best to keep the RAM kits as even as possible, though it’s not only the RAM that will have a say in performance (we’re dealing with different CPU clocks, 6-core vs. 8-core; and potentially a much-improved quad-channel controller – it -has- been three years, after all!)

          Nonetheless, the results should be interesting.

      • Howard Treesong

        A CAS-latency of 19… yow! You know, if I’m going to spend the money I’m going to insist on the performance. It’s not so that you can slap a sticker on it and I’ll buy it because it’s got the sticker on it. I don’t mind spending the money but I’m going to insist that I get value for that money. I never buy shiny. I buy functionality.

        I’m up for a new machine in the near future, I’m looking at what the best options are. I want reliable performance. There is a group of users who feel that everything should be free, which is nonsense. It will cost what it costs. But, for the money spent it’s got to be more than ‘look how pretty it is’. I’m not going to frown at it because it’s also pretty, but pretty is a nice-to-have.

        • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

          I do wonder how long it’ll take before we start seeing lower CAS latencies on DDR4. The reason they’re so high right now is obvious… every company is doing whatever it takes to stay within that 1.2 envelope. The fact we can see at least 2666MHz speeds @ 1.2v is nothing short of incredible. I have a 2800MHz kit en route, so I am interested in seeing if that’s also 1.2v, and what its CL is (given CL 19 at 2666, I’d assume this will be CL 20).

          • Howard Treesong

            So, I’m thinking they keep the speeds at what they are not because they can’t push them higher but because they’re going to be -real- hot when they run them as fast as the boys in the lab can make them go [which they’re not going to tell you, they will want to have those numbers to compare what the other guys are doing].

            I would expect DDR4 to be better/faster than DDR3, going by the table, the performance is 60% worse for DDR4 than for DDR3 at the same clock rates. I’m thinking someone in the lab is tweaking the little numbers to get to better values for the next release, while also trying not to make it hot enough to melt through the PC case because, you know, that would look bad in magazines.

            Honestly, I’ve been intrigued by some other technologies: graphene as the base material instead of silicon transistors. That’s the voodoo stuff of course, won’t be available soon, if ever, but look at those clock rates higher up, they’re keeping ‘em down because the things are getting too hot. And the hotter they are the worse they’re going to perform anyway.

            I’m going to follow this because I’m going to want to know whether it’s worth spending the money to get the performance.

          • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

            I have no clue whatsoever about the heat DDR4 is going to put off, but it’s a good point to raise. Maybe we’ll actually have a need for all of those fan coolers that have been available forever.

            I finally received a kit, and this one is spec’d at DDR4-2800 with a CL of 16 (not 20 like I assumed it’d be). Despite that tighter delta, the kit still boasts a 1.2v rating.

            “I would expect DDR4 to be better/faster than DDR3, going by the table, the performance is 60% worse for DDR4 than for DDR3 at the same clock rates.”

            Are you referring to my table? You might be misinterpreting things; those are the price premiums, not performance gains. Even with a kit in hand I have no idea about performance, because I’m waiting on both an X99 board to arrive along with the CPU.

          • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

            I have no clue whatsoever about the heat DDR4 is going to put off, but it’s a good point to raise. Maybe we’ll actually have a need for all of those fan coolers that have been available forever.

            I finally received a kit, and this one is spec’d at DDR4-2800 with a CL of 16 (not 20 like I assumed it’d be). Despite that tighter delta, the kit still boasts a 1.2v rating.

            “I would expect DDR4 to be better/faster than DDR3, going by the table, the performance is 60% worse for DDR4 than for DDR3 at the same clock rates.”

            Are you referring to my table? You might be misinterpreting things; those are the price premiums, not performance gains. Even with a kit in hand I have no idea about performance, because I’m waiting on both an X99 board to arrive along with the CPU.

  • Iam Widdershins

    Dear author: Please don’t forget that CAS latencies are measured in clocks, not nanoseconds. CAS-9 @1600MHz is better than CAS-2.5 was @400. RAM clock speeds are increasing almost exponentially over time, but the RAM slots aren’t physically getting any closer to the memory controller — so naturally, the data return time is going to be about the same, and there will be a lot more clock cycles in there.

    • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

      That’s a great point; I’ve clarified that paragraph.

      We’re still dealing with equal clocks here, though. DDR3-2133 should perform about the same as DDR4-2133, or at least simple logic would imply that (I’m not really sure how much DDR4’s architecture will boost performance clock-for-clock). Ultimately, I’m interested in using a tool like Sandra that will show us the latency differences between DDR3 and DDR4. Unfortunately, it’ll be kind of difficult to see if the differences affect real-world performance, since the CPUs in either testbed will be different (6-core Ivy Bridge-E vs. 8-core Haswell-E).

  • Cenarl

    With such low voltage I’m interested to see the initial overclocks on DDR4. Hopefully these things can take 1.6 like DDR3. It would be interesting to see these things commonly OC’d to 3500 or so as a normal baseline, but then we’ll need a “does it really matter” type article to follow it up haha.

    • dfhdghdhdhgfh

      if your using a laptop voltage does matter but desktops it doesn’t matter at all really well it will also create less heat in the ram causing less problems later on but still desktops have so much space in them and air circulation its not a problem but ill stick with my DDR machine and ill keep loving this 2005 machine til the end

    • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

      I have major doubts that launch sticks will be able to handle that kind of voltage, since the DRAM is fine-tuned for this increased efficiency. It’s hard to say though. I won’t even want to overclock my first DDR4 kit really at all, because I don’t want to risk killing it! Will wait for a secondary kit before diving into that.

    • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

      I have major doubts that launch sticks will be able to handle that kind of voltage, since the DRAM is fine-tuned for this increased efficiency. It’s hard to say though. I won’t even want to overclock my first DDR4 kit really at all, because I don’t want to risk killing it! Will wait for a secondary kit before diving into that.

  • Gasaraki

    Dude, I remember paying $250 for 128MB of RDRAM for my PIII system so this is nothing.

    • http://techgage.com/ Jamie Fletcher

      I remember RDRAM, 800MHz stuff when the alternative was SDRAM running at 133MHz (before DDR was introduced). Back then, it a made a difference. This, with DDR3/4, the difference is minimal. Effectively getting the same clock speed with higher latency, for a huge price premium. 1.2v to 1.6v, sure, you’re saving power, but that’ll add up to what… $1-$2 a year?

      I’m not surprised in the least though, nor am I going to tell people to steer away from it. The performance difference has no bearing on the purchase decision. Why? Because without DDR4 RAM, your brand new Haswell-E or Broadwell system, won’t function. The alternative is to buy a completely different and lower end/older system. Anyway, this is just first generation (consumer grade at least), so the tech needs to settle. It’ll take another year or two for the price to drop and the speeds to ramp up – at which point, it’ll be worth the upgrade/system replacement.

  • dfhdghdhdhgfh

    I’m still using the original DDR my computer is from 2005 2.01 GHz Athlon 64 and 1.5 Gb of ram (upgraded) the monitor is from 2007 and the keyboard from 1996 I think I will stick with this PC until a better tower comes out one day or until it dies but it loads pages very quickly and is still fast, I am currently running Linux Lite on it

  • George Williams

    so i just looked prices are a little lower than you have listed here but to put into perspective ddr4 is only 15 dollars more per 4 gig stick than ddr3 its not much of a price difference for new tech i dont know what people are talking about it being real expensive when really its not that bad if you have the money to build a new system you probably arent gonna notice the fifteen dollar difference.

    source

    http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=9162548&CatId=11628

    and

    http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=9162548&CatId=11628

    • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

      Both URLs there are the same, but from the one I can see, the price is identical to Newegg (this article featured 8GB sticks, not 4GB). One DDR4-2400 4GB module is $60, while 2x4GB DDR3-2400 is $80. Still a 50% premium.

      Our Jamie Fletcher sees these prices over at Corsair UK though, so maybe it’s best to not complain about the prices here…

  • Kougar

    Has-E isn’t even out yet and prices are coming down. A 32GB kit can be had for $430, a $130 premium over DDR3. Prices will equalize by next year, bit faster than I was expecting.

    • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

      The 32GB kits that are under $500 were not listed on Newegg when this post was written, but it’s a good trend to see. The most expensive kit at Newegg is a Corsair DDR4-2800 16GB @ $540. Ouch!

      • Kougar

        That’s also surprising…. 3200Mhz was going to be the limit, at least initially! Pretty sure they’ll be launching some of those at equally high prices! Can’t wait for Has-E!

        Crossing fingers already for a ~$600 8-core Skylake-E ;)

        • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

          It does seem that 3200MHz is going to be the limited, and it seems even more so that THOSE kits will be next-to-impossible to get hold of. I see a 3000MHz kit there that was sold out before I even saw it hit the store. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw really high-spec’d kits at CES, although availability will be the only thing that really matters.

  • http://Techgage.com/ Matthew Harris

    I remember paying $370 for a 2X512MB kit of DDR-466 in 2003. I also spent $599 on a GeForce 5900 on that build.

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